Nautilus. (multimedia CD-ROM magazine) (Compute's Getting Started with Multimedia Applications)
by Alfred C. Giovetti
It's the first multimedia CD-ROM magazine, and it may point to the future of electronic publishing. This space-age magazine-on-a disc is called Nautilus (Metatec Discovery Systems, 7001 Discovery Boulevard, Dublin, Ohio 43017; 614-761-2000; single-disc price: $9.95; 12-disc subscription: $119.40).
In addition to being a magazine, you can use Nautilus to establish two-way access with Metatec's own online service, similar to CompuServe or Genie, through Nautilus Link and an 800 telephone number. The connection with online services makes sense when you consider that Nautilus was invented by Metatec's Chief Executive Officer, Jeffrey Wilkins, who began CompuServe and has been involved with online services for over 20 years.
The familiar paper-based magazine has an important and recognizable impact in keeping the public informed. But the impact of online computer publications has yet to come into its own. The disadvantages of most online services include the per-minute charges incurred when downloading information, and the system limitations which result in the transfer of mostly ASCII-type information devoid of the attractive color graphics and satisfying feel of paper publications. Nautilus, a multimedia PC-Windows and Macintosh product, provides the subscriber with the traditional bulletin-board type of information enhanced with a virtual multimedia feast of CD-quality pictures, music, animation, and film clips.
Each monthly issue of Nautilus includes material submitted by Nautilus subscribers and staff. Along with the normal magazine information, such as essays, editorials, reviews, and news, you also receive clip art, short sound effects, short digital-sound clips, shareware, freeware, fonts, MIDI musicfiles, demos and previews, educational programs, programming tips, users' comments and tips, free-use digitized photos, animation clips, system software, and utilities.
A recent Nautilus article comparing available word processors contained full-working demonstration versions of the software that you could try out yourself. You could then use Nautilus CD-ROM and Nautilus Link to purchase and enable full-working copies of the selected software already on the CD-ROM through a lock-and-key code system.
The high overall quality of Nautilus is marred by the uneven quality of the individual presentations. The individual applications can sometimes require different system configurations of greater or lesser free memory, various amounts of extended or expanded memory, and uncertain compatibilities with differing versions of Windows and memory managers.
Another disadvantage of Nautilus is tied to its greatest advantage. The diversity and volume of information contained in the Nautilus CD-ROM and Nautilus Link makes it by far the most versatile periodical or online service. By the same token, if you try to absorb all this information every month, you might just experience information overload.